World

Ecuador arrests taxi, union leaders as strike over end of fuel subsidies spills into 2nd day

Ecuadoran authorities dispatched military vehicles to ferry civilian passengers Friday and arrested several transport union leaders in efforts to halt a strike that shut down taxi, bus and other services in response to a sudden rise in fuel prices.

350 detained for disrupting traffic and services, attacking police, government says

A demonstrator confronts a member of the riot police on Friday during protests over the end of fuel subsidies in Quito, Ecuador. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Ecuadoran authorities dispatched military vehicles to ferry civilian passengers Friday and arrested several transport union leaders in efforts to halt a strike that shut down taxi, bus and other services in response to a sudden rise in fuel prices.

President Lenin Moreno, who earlier declared a state of emergency over the strike, vowed Friday that he wouldn't back down on the decision to end costly fuel subsidies, which doubled the price of diesel overnight and sharply raised gasoline prices.

He said the subsidies have been harmful to the national economy, costing billions of dollars over a number of years.

"There will be a mechanism to alleviate the effects that [the end of subsidies] could have on some sectors, of course," he said. "And we are ready to do that, but under no circumstances will we change the measure."

The streets of Quito, Ecuador, were filled with people trekking to work on foot or seeking rides from friends and strangers as the strike entered a second day.

Soldiers stand guard during a transport strike against President Lenin Moreno's economic policies on Friday in Quito. Hundreds of people were detained, and the army was called in to help restore order. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

The government said about 350 people had been detained for blocking traffic, interrupting public services or attacking police.

Government Minister Maria Paula Romo said that national taxi drivers' leader Jorge Calderon had been detained for paralyzing a public service, while officials said two regional transport officials also were detained.

Moreno declared a state of emergency on Thursday to confront the strike and scatter street clashes between protesters and police.

This week, he eliminated fuel subsidies in order to cope with budget problems and announced other measures, including labour reforms, meant to help stimulate the economy.

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